Eco-Advantage Blog

October 16, 2006 | Andrew Winston | Jump to: Comments (0) | Post A Comment

Levi's Organic Cotton -- Out of the Closet

Levi’s recently announced the upcoming launch of jeans made from 100% organic cotton. Starting in November, Levi’s high end “Capital E” clothing line would include the new “Levi’s Eco” jeans. In the company’s press release U.S. Brand President Robert Hanson said,

“it is critical for us to continue to innovate with our products and within the category itself in order to drive positive change…With Levi’s® Eco, consumers who seek to minimize their personal impact on the environment can choose jeans that demand less from the environment without forfeiting the style or quality they’ve come to expect from the Levi’s® brand.”

What’s interesting here is that Levi’s has quietly included organic cotton in its jeans for at least a few years, but hasn’t wanted to talk about it. In Green to Gold, we re-tell a story we heard Joel Makower recount about Levi’s use of organic cotton. When Joel discovered that 2% of Levi’s cotton was organic (see his post), he asked Levi’s management if he could tell the story. But they were very wary — they didn’t want to face questions about the ‘other 98%’ of the cotton. Well, it seems Levi’s has found a solution — just go all the way to 100%. This approach allows the company to pitch the jeans as the same style and quality, but just better environmentally. Levi’s is using green as the ‘third button’ to press.

Of course going entirely 100% organic is difficult (and expensive), but the company seems to have hit on a middle ground — a way to launch organic into more mass priced product lines. As executive Hanson told BusinessWeek, “The goal is to have significant organic content in the lower-priced lines. We’re aiming for minimum 50% organic.” It can’t be a coincidence that the company, which worried about tough questions about the “other 98%,” would aim to get over the 50% line. Being able to say your product is mostly green is clearly important…and good defense.

Levi’s is demonstrating a combination of market savvy and pragmatism that should position it for success.

[An interesting footnote: Makower recently posted a heartfelt and justified lament about the lack of green products out there. They may be slow in coming, but they seem to be on their way…]


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